Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thankful Thanksgiving is Over!

On Thursday afternoon, I left work a little early (with permission) to finish the last minute shopping, cooking, baking and decorating for my big dinner. There were butterflies in my stomach the whole time. 

My lovely friend, Neave, was luckily on-island for the event, and proved to be an incredible co-host. She cooked, mashed potatoes, cleaned and washed dishes, and generally just kept me alive and sane. I don't know how I would have coped without her!

My final project was making these place settings. This was a pretty simple task, as I'd had my guest list finalized for days, and had printed out the names earlier in the day. 


I also made some last-minute additions to my centerpiece. The herbs are fresh from Kazuno's garden. Aren't they lovely? This pumpkin has been around since early October but is holding up really well. Maybe the candle wax sealed the freshness? :) 
At around 6 p.m., the mad flurry of preparation died down and my apartment was actually pretty peaceful. Neave was putting the finishing touches on the cranberry sauce and made me go take a shower and get ready (bless her). The lamp and candle light glowed happily, Christmas music played happily, and Neave and I breated a sigh of relief. 

Then, the guests arrived. Chaos ensued as the bell rang, rain started to pour, guests arrived dripping, some friends tried to cook their food last minute, people started to mill around my smallish apartment, and I tried to figure out what to do with allll the amazing food the guests were bringing. 
Kazuno supervised the cooking of our turkey, Timu. He was delicious. 
Neave was, once again, a God-send. She saw everything that needed to happen and asked me about it, made sure people had pre-dinner drinks, and then ushered everyone to the table to start the meal.  As I asked everyone to sit, I realized that I, as hostess, should give some sort of speech or toast or something to get started. A bit shaken by the chaos and the sheer number of my guests, I mumbled something about being thankful and then ran off. Note to self: prepare for that moment in advance, next time!

 Overall, I think the dinner was a success. Once everyone was seated and happily passing food around, conversation started to flow. I had carefully planned the seating so that people were sitting next to others they knew or who I thought they should know, and I am pretty proud of how things turned out. :) There was PLENTY of food, as well. Everyone pitched in with a side or a drink, and my fridge is still packed to the brim! AND I made everyone take stuff home!

In the end I was only slightly exhausted but incredibly happy, and since everyone pitched in to help clean up (especially Kazuno and her sister Rino: my heroes.), I was able to fall into bed around midnight.

It was such a fun process to plan this whole party from start to finish, to brainstorm with my friends, and to watch it all happen as if by magic. I had the best time, but I am so glad it's finished! :) Yesterday I cleaned and re-arranged some more so my apartment is almost back to normal.

Now to start planning for Christmas... Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Prep

Happy Thanksgiving, family and friends!

I'm hosting a small Thanksgiving dinner at my apartment this year. I've been trying to keep the numbers down, but I still had to borrow two tables from my school and buy some more dishes. 
 Luckily, my dish set is sold at the 100 yen ($1) store. Win! 

I've been prepping all week. Shopping, deep cleaning, making turkey cookies. 

 Last night I did some more prep cooking and baking. I made a pumpkin pie, prepared my candied yams, baked some more cookies, and cooked mac & cheese... just for fun. :) 

I also set up my table. Now all I need is the silverware and the food! 
Oh, yes, and the guests. :)

Last night I was so excited I couldn't sleep. Tonight's the big night. *Deep breath* Here goes!

It's my first grown-up dinner party. What do you think?

 Click this link for pictures of the turkey prep on Kazuno's blog. They're kinda hilarious. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mid Year Conference (MYC) 2010

Each year, Okinawa JETs from all of the islands gather together in Okinawa City for two full days of training and madness. A variety of presentations are given from past and current JETs on topics ranging from "Eating Healthy in Okinawa" to "Interesting Games and Activities for Mid to High Level High Schools." My friend, Sarra, and I presented the latter. We put weeks of work into a detailed 25 page handout, but kept our 90 minute presentation as light and entertaining as possible. It was nerve-wrecking, but awesome. Especially when we played holiday pictionary. Here is a favorite drawing: 

Since this was an official work event, the dress code was professional, the days were long, and the general mood was serious. However, once the clock struck 5, all sense of professionalism was lost. Two evenings of fun ensued. :)

M is for "MmmmMMMmmmmmm...." 
On Thursday night, JETs split into their "Blocks," or regions, for a dinner party. Since I am the "
Blockhead" for the southern region, I put together a little dinner at an awesome burger joint: Seaside Jet City Burgers. A ton of people made it out (including some orphaned Naha JETs) and we had a great time. The burgers were, of course, incredible. Yay, JETS at Jet City Burgers!

Y is for "Yatta!"
On Friday night, the lovely Laura organized a crazy fun event: costume kickball! A surprising number of JETs put on their crazy and ran around the park for a couple hours. We even had a couple of Japanese kids join our games. They had more talented than all of us put together. Super fun! 

C is for Crazies! 
After kickball, a smaller group got together at a local mall. Neave and I stayed in costume, just for fun, and enjoyed the strange stares we got. We took "purikura" pictures and ate delicious indian food. Nom nom nom. 

Before MYC started, I was honestly dreading it a bit. It's a lot of work and a lot of sitting and learning, but I thoroughly enjoyed it this year. A lot of the workshops were really helpful, and presenting a workshop was almost like being back in college. :) I'd missed the stress, a little. The best part of it all was seeing all the JETs who live off on smaller islands in the middle of the ocean somewhere. I wish we could all get together a lot more often! 

Monday, November 8, 2010

How Happy was Halloween? THIS Happy.

I know some people balk at the idea of celebrating Halloween because of its roots in paganism, its dark and twisty side, or its consumerist emphasis, but I just can't help but love it. Modern Halloween doesn't have anything to do with pagan beliefs, and who doesn't like to be spooked by a ghost story now and then? Also, let's be honest, what holiday ISN'T commercialized by now?

 If you get past those complaints, how can you not love October 31st? A holiday that let's you pour out your creative energy, make (and eat) delicious treats, host and attend parties, and wear numerous costumes? Yes, please! 

Here are a few of the many, many, many things that made Halloween 2010 especially happy for me: 
From the top left corner:
1- Playing Dress Up: Angel 
     A simple, quick, and cool (read: not hot) costume for my 2nd year classes
2- Pumpkin Pancakes
     Oh. Yes. Yes. Yes.
3- Harry Potter Lesson
    An incredibly involved, super fun class. x10.
4- Carving Pumpkins
    with some special first year students and two amazing CouchSurfers. :)
5- Halloween Party
    at one of my churches. Super fun. :D
6- Pumpkin 1 
    which was carved at my...
7- Carving Pumpkin Party.
     Max looks good in a maid's apron, huh? We also carved...
8- Pumpkin 2
    The lovely Shisa O'Lantern.
9- Playing Dress Up: McGonagall
    For that Harry Potter lesson mentioned above.
10- Snickerdoodles 
    Baked and photographed by the excellent Angelo. Savored and devoured by me.
11- Costume Fashion Show
    Fun with 2nd year students.
12- My Angel 
    Crafts with my adopted Japanese family, including their youngest sweetheart. <3
13- Playing Dress Up: Poison Ivy
    I really, really love wearing costumes. :)